Brown Sues Importer For Smuggling Unmarked And Untreated Mangos

Monday, July 21, 2008
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES--California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and the California Department of Food and Agriculture today announced that Bombino Express Worldwide has been sued for importing unmarked packages of mangos and yams from India that had not been treated to prevent the spread of the destructive Oriental Fruit Fly.

"Bombino Express Worldwide is charged with smuggling untreated and unlabeled fruit that can carry invasive insects like the Oriental Fruit Fly into the United States,' Attorney General Brown said. 'When foreign shipping companies disobey California’s quarantine laws they put the state’s growers at risk. County, state and federal inspectors should be commended for catching this illegal shipment and isolating its contents.'

Attorney General Brown alleges that Bombino Express Worldwide violated the Food and Agriculture Code and engaged in unfair business practices by failing to label and treat packaged mangos to kill any fruit fly larvae before exporting the products to the United States. Female Oriental Fruit Flies lay eggs in groups of 3 to 30 under the skin of host fruits and vegetables like those imported by Bombino Express Worldwide.

A single fruit fly lives approximately 90 days and can travel up to 30 miles in search of food and sites to lay eggs. The threat of agricultural destruction from invasive species like the Oriental Fruit Fly is so great that there was a complete ban on importing Indian mangos and yams until May 2006 when federal law was amended to allow limited importation of Indian mangos. Under the new rules, shipping companies must attach documentation affirming that mangos are treated to kill any fruit fly larvae.

The Department of Food and Agriculture launched an investigation into Bombino Express Worldwide after an inspector at a facility near Ontario International Airport found several unmarked packages of produce being imported to California from India. A parcel inspection dog named C.C., working for the San Bernardino County Agricultural Commissioner’s office, sniffed out the mislabeled box of mangos. Contra Costa County is also using dogs for parcel inspections in the Bay Area and there are plans to assign dogs in San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno counties.

The Attorney General’s Office seeks $10,000 per violation of the Food and Agricultural Code and California’s unfair competition statute. The company could face up to $1.67 million in penalties for its 167 violations of California law.

Oriental fruit flies have wreaked havoc on Hawaiian agriculture since the species was introduced to the island in 1946. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, failure to eradicate Oriental Fruit Flies in California could cost the state up to $176 million in crop losses, pesticide use and quarantine requirements.

Bombino Express Worldwide appears to be part of a large network of companies that import various products including fruit, spices and other products from India and Southeast Asia.

California’s First Amended Complaint was filed on July 9, 2008 and was served on Mohmed Yasin Latiwala July 15, 2008 in New Jersey. Latiwala was served with the lawsuit in his individual capacity as CEO and on behalf of Bombino Express, Inc., Bombino Express (Worldwide) Inc. The lawsuit was also served on the California office of Bombino Express in Hawthorne.

A copy of the state’s lawsuit is available from the attorney general's press office at: 916-324-5500. For more information from the California Department of Food and Agriculture visit: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/exec/Public_Affairs/Index.html

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